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Three municipalities in the province of Cagayan became the latest beneficiaries of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (PAGCOR) Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center (MPEC) project after the state-run gaming agency inaugurated the newly-constructed facilities on March 10 and 11, 2023.

The PAGCOR-funded basketball-court type multi-purpose facilities worth P12.7 million each were formally unveiled in the towns of Amulong, Solana and Penablanca.

In the municipality of Solana, the evacuation facility built in the flood-prone barangay Malalam-Malacabibi was already used as a temporary shelter last October after the gates of Magat Dam were opened to release water following the onslaught of Tropical Storm Paeng.

According to Solana Municipal Mayor Jennalyn Carag, despite being partially completed, the PAGCOR-funded evacuation facility already provided safe refuge to 80 families from low-lying communities in their town.

“When Tropical Storm Paeng hit us, the water level in Magat Dam rose. There are barangays in our town that have been isolated, such as barangay Dasun, Bauan and Malalam-Malacabibi. Even when this evacuation center was just being built, it has already given us a lot of help,” said Carag.

In the town of Penablanca, PAGCOR’s evacuation facility was built in the remote barangay of Minanga, which is almost two hours away from the town center and has no access to telecommunication. The community’s mountainous location and partly unpaved roads make it challenging for the local government to deliver swift aid to locals whenever they are affected by natural disasters.

“In recent years, we have been tested by various calamities like that only widespread flooding here in the province of Cagayan in 2020,” Penablanca Mayor Washington Taguinod said. “This was followed by another widespread flooding in 2021 and, in 2022, we felt the strength of the earthquake that hit the Ilocos region. The establishment of this PAGCOR evacuation center in Minanga barangay became our priority because of its distance from the population. This is a non-telco area, which means it is difficult for residents to seek immediate help when a disaster occurs.”

With the completion of the PAGCOR-funded evacuation center in the far-flung barangay Minanga, Taguinod said that the locals, including the indigenous peoples living at the foot of Sierra Madre, will be assured of a safe shelter as well as a venue where the local government can download relief goods and other basic government services in times of disasters.

Meanwhile, Amulong Municipal Mayor Elpidio Rendon also expressed his gratitude to PAGCOR for giving the vulnerable sectors of their community a secure evacuation shelter during calamities.

“In Amulong, we have identified typhoons, landslides, drought and flood as major hazards. The flood alone affects 17 of the 47 barangays. This situation pushes us to raise the adaptive capabilities of our communities that are exposed to flooding. This evacuation center will be of great help to the vulnerable members of our community, such as the elderly, children and pregnant women, especially during the onslaught of natural disasters,” said Rendon.

PAGCOR’s Vice-President for Corporate Social Responsibility Group, Ramon Stephen Villaflor, who graced the inauguration of the evacuation facilities in Cagayan, explained that instead of constructing a two-story building, the state-run gaming firm provided funding for four basketball-court type multi-purpose facilities in towns that are most vulnerable to flooding.

Besides Amulong, Solana and Penablanca, the town of Iguig also received a basketball-court type evacuation facility. Final inspection of the project in Iguig was already conducted.

Meanwhile, apart from the province of Cagayan, PAGCOR also recently inaugurated two-story multi-purpose evacuation centers worth P50 million each in the towns of Floridablanca and Candaba in Pampanga. Over 200,000 residents from said municipalities stand to benefit from the modern and spacious buildings. To date, a total of 24 MPECs have been completely built and inaugurated nationwide while 53 are still undergoing construction.